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Redefining A Typical Conversation

Everyday human interactions can be very different depending on where you are in the world.

Mareesa Lindstrom in Lifestyle on Jan 5, 2016

Walking down the hallway, you might make eye contact with someone and instantly nod or express some sort of greeting. Maybe you see a familiar face and stop to have a little conversation. Most UMD students will do this without really thinking about it because it happens every day.

But for some international students at UMD, those everyday interactions are not so second nature for them.

According to UMD Junior Yimei Li, the way people get along with each other is a little different in China than it is in the United States. In China, not everyone talks to each other unless you have some sort of connection through having the same major or being on the same sports team.

“But here, people just meet for the first time and introduce each other,” said Li. “The next time we see each other we will say hello, but in China, we do not do that.”

Li was not the only one who had a hard time adjusting to this greeting. Idun Rasmussen, a sophomore at UMD from Norway, remembers just listening and trying to see how interactions between people went. In Norway, people are more introverted, and they hold back when it comes to meeting people.

“It’s easier to actually start a conversation here,” said Rasmussen. “If you approach a stranger on the street in Norway, people will think that you are crazy. Whereas here, it’s more OK.”

The way people greet each other in the halls of UMD is mostly the same as it would be in Brazil; except for one thing.

“In Brazil, even if you don’t know someone very well, we shake their hands whenever you see them,” said Cesar Melo, a junior at UMD. “Even if you see them every day, you shake their hands and ask how they are doing.”

Now, that may not seem like that big of a difference, but to someone from Norway, that wouldn’t be an everyday interaction. Especially when it comes to the small-talk portion of the conversation that usually follows. Rasmussen said she remembered meeting so many people her first day in America.

“They wanted to know all this stuff about me, and I wasn’t used to revealing so much information to one person at one time,” said Rasmussen.

Even though small talk is a normal interaction in the United States, it was a different experience for Rasmussen. She didn’t really understand why people would just stand there and talk about the weather or ask her how her family was. Especially since those people didn’t know her.

“But then I realized that it was just small talk and them making that first connection,” said Rasmussen.

Small talk isn’t a universal aspect in social encounters around the world. Some places don’t partake in it at all, but according to Melo, “small talk is even bigger” in Brazil than it is in the United States.

Another thing that is different between social interactions in Brazil compared to social interactions in other parts of the world is humor.

“I just feel like humor in the United States is just a little different from my country,” said Melo when he thought about his experiences making jokes.

In Melo’s opinion, he found that Brazilian’s jokes compared to those typically made in the United States, are somewhat on the mean side. But he also thinks that there are people from other countries that would say “Americans are so mean.” Melo believes that humor is one of the easiest ways to fit in and create bonds, but the differences between countries can hinder that process if one doesn’t understand the other’s sense of humor.

“As long as it’s a joke, people should not get mad about it,” said Melo.

After all the small talk and jokes are made, the conversation has come to an end. One might just say goodbye and walk away. But even just saying goodbye can be different for people from different countries.

“Hugging and kisses on the cheek are very common, regardless of age or relationship,” said Melo. “Between guys, usually a handshake will do.”

Brazil and Norway are almost the exact opposite.

“The goodbye in Norway isn’t much different from the goodbye in the U.S.,” said Rasmussen. “Maybe just a little bit more held back because people are generally a little bit more shy.”

Going through a typical social interaction at UMD can be tough when you are from a different country. Everything from the moment you greet someone, to the small talk, jokes and saying goodbye can be different from person to person. Students at UMD might not worry about these types of social decisions, but some international students do.

They might wonder whether they should shake that person’s hand or whether they will have the same sense of humor. Maybe they are worried about how much is typically said when it comes to small talk or how they are supposed to end the conversation without being rude to the other person. But what could make it easier for them?

“Sometimes people wonder, where is that person from. Why do they look different?” Said Melo. “I wish they would just ask.”

“You just need a topic you can talk about together to become good friends,” said Li.

“Just go say hi because, yes we have to make an effort to get to know people too, but it’s a little bit more of an effort for us not knowing the culture,” said Rasmussen. “Just get to know international students; they’re awesome.”

Published on the first page of Statesman and Online on the Odyssey Link:

What You Thought Was A Typical Conversation

Jack O’ Lanterns light up Glensheen property for a fifth year

Mareesa Lindstrom Statesman Correspondent in Arts and Entertainment

Glensheen’s annual event of Jack O’ Lantern Spooktacular is finally here starting this Oct. 22 and ending on Oct. 25. Each night, the event starts at 6 p.m. and is open for three hours in total.

“It is an affordable event for the families,” said Jane Pederson, the marketing manager at Glensheen. Each individual ticket is ten dollars this year, and can be bought ahead of time online. They have never sold out before but, last year, they had up to 5000 people attend over the weekend.

If the whole family plans on going one night, they can buy their tickets at the door for only twenty dollars. That includes two parents or guardians, as well as children in the family seventeen years and younger. Children under twelve years old are free.

“I’m not really sure what to expect,” said Julie Erickson, a mother living in Duluth who is planning to go for her first time with her daughter. “I really just want to see the grounds decorated for Halloween.”

This year is the fifth consecutive year of this event, yet not everyone knows what really happens during Glensheen’s Spooktacular night. “Each year we have a different route for the people to walk,” said Pederson, as she talked about the one thousand carved pumpkins they place around the trail they mapped out for the visitors.

Other than the lit up pumpkins, there is also a station where every guest can go make themselves a s’more and watch the fire twirlers perform. “The Congdon Staff celebrated Halloween,” said Pederson. Making the Glensheen mansion ground a perfect backdrop to celebrate the holiday.

The grounds of Glensheen are seven acres, so the set up for this event is extensive. “It takes the whole week and all of Wednesday before the big day,” said Pederson.

This is where the volunteers come into play. They help the Glensheen staff with assisting the volunteers who are carving pumpkins by washing the carving utensils, actually carving the pumpkins themselves, and running the actual event while it is going on.

“We get great support from the Greek like from campus,” said Pederson, “ROTC will help us set up and move our pumpkins too.”

Many people from all around Duluth volunteer to help put this event on. Some of them are locals but a lot come from the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). Pederson gave some examples of the soccer team, Greek Life sororities, and the Air Force ROTC program, all offered at UMD. The setup takes a majority of the four days just before the event.

“It was fun going there and setting up,” said David Kirkland, a Cadet from the UMD Detachment 420 in the Air Force ROTC program, “And being able to come back while the event is actually going on and seeing the final product.”

Transportation is provided in a bus shuttle that leaves from the UMD campus and East High school. All of which can be found on the Glensheen website for this Spooktacular event.

“This is a wonderful way for people to experience Glensheen in another way,” said Pederson, “I would love to see a ton of students and the community to come see the event.”